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The good, the bad and the unknown: Stanford

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The mostly bad of Washington’s loss to Stanford.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Offensive start - We finally got the offensive start we all wanted coming out the gate as the Husky raced down for two long touchdown drives which were smooth and dominating. They had a third one going well before the eventual fourth and one stop that turned the game.

Bryce Love defense early - The Huskies defended Love almost perfectly early on. They kept him contained, delivered huge shots when they got there and he could barely walk by halftime.

Myles Gaskin - It seemed Gaskin was excited to outperform Love on the big stage, and he was better per-carry and fantastic all night other than one poor lane choice on the fourth and one and a rare, rare fumble for the junior.

Aaron Fuller - The sophomore receiver put up nice stats and had big catches. He could have put up more had the Huskies been able to get him the ball on some plays where he got open.

Rally - The Huskies’ late rally at least helped keep things respectable and almost made it a tight game again. It would have been very interesting to see how the game would have played out hand Land Clark’s crew not found a mysterious hold that essentially ended the game.

Stanford’s play - Stanford played as well as I think they are possibly capable right now on offense, defense and special teams. Other than one long missed field goal late, I can’t really think of any mistakes or bad plays they had all game. Very well-played by the Cardinal.

The Bad

Failing to step up, again - The Huskies once again couldn’t step to the plate when challenged once things got tough in the second half. The game unfolded much in the same where all of their losses have in the past two season when they were unable to step up their play when an opponent came at them hard and played well.

Loss of goals - A lot is made of the Huskies losing their Playoff chances, but honestly, after this loss, it’s clear the Huskies weren’t a national championship-caliber team (injuries played a factor in this), and the bigger pain is likely losing at a chance to even win the division and the potential to slip as far as the Sun Bowl. The Huskies could finish 10-2 and still end up in the Holiday Bowl now.

Losing to Stanford - Losing to ASU is one thing, but losing to Stanford stings a lot more, especially probably losing the North to them. The win helps keep the Cardinal off of the path of regression they are on and keeps momentum for a program that recruits hard in the state of Washington. Plus, this was not the level of Stanford teams from their prime. This was a team that should have pushed back down the ladder.

Offensive meltdown - I’m not sure what it is, but when the Husky offense struggles it doesn’t seem to just miss on a couple of plays and flounder, it has a full-on meltdown like it did in the third and fourth quarters, where even just getting a yard becomes a herculean task, even against a suspect defense. Nothing cost the Huskies more than the offense’s sudden inability to get a first down for a long stretch.

Third down defense - The offense deserves some blame for this for hanging the defense out to dry, but that was just minor, as this was an issue early in the game. The defense played well on first and second down many times only to give up brutal third down conversion after conversion. For all the amazing stats, it had seemed all year, especially early in games, that the Husky D really struggled on third down and it was exploited in a huge way this game.

Mismatches - The Huskies allowed Stanford to spot mismatches like having their tall receiver against shorter cornerbacks, Harrison Phillips against their guards and Jake Browning’s discomfort with mixed pressure and exploited it.

Time of possession - Washington’s plan to Chip Kelly the Cardinal looked brilliant at first and then incredibly foolish later on. Maybe they forgot that, even at their best, the Ducks lost two huge games to Stanford in similar fashion by getting dominated in time of possession and by losing on fourth and short attempts.

Lack of defensive explosion - A lot is made of Washington’s lack of explosion on offense, but the defense has shown an inability to make a big play the past couple of years. Much like they did against Arizona State, they failed to create a turnover against an average at best, young quarterback. They also failed to get to Costello and create sacks, or at least push him out of the pocket.

The bounces and little things - It was one of those games where everything which could have gone either way went for one team. A fumbled snap on a fourth and one turns into a first down. Costello throws about bad passes into traffic, but they all get tipped and out of play, Costello throws up jump balls and it works, Gaskin fumbles and loses it, endless slipping and falling.

Gaskin’s fumble - This was like that Chris Polk fumble in the Alamo Bowl where it didn’t even seem real. The guy NEVER fumbles and he does at that moment. Massive swing right there.

Jake Browning - Browning has yet to step up in game like this. He just has not been good when faced with pressure in tight games. His bizarre, Russell Wilson scrambles which end in cataclysmic sacks are becoming one of the weird traits ever displayed by a Husky quarterback. Teams have clearly found how to defend him and know that as long as they can keep it close and force him to have to make plays out of his usual routine, he won’t step up.

Receivers not making tough catches - There weren’t flat out drops, but the receivers failed to make every chance to make a tough catch in tight situations. Getting even just one of those would have been huge in a close game.

The field - Was there a monsoon in Palo Alto last week? I haven’t checked weather leading up to the game, but it certainly looked like Stanford made sure the field was as slippery and chunked up as possible against a faster opponent.

That holding call - I have hated Land Clark for years and he was actually officiating a pretty good game up until that holding call on McGary which ended up basically ending the game. It was especially hard to live with considering the level of interior handworking allowed on Vita Vea over the course of the game, including the face mask on Vea on a play where the offensive lineman just tackled him trying to prevent the sack.

The Unknown

What Love was on? I’m not sure if Love running slow and barely walking was some sort of possum act, but I have never seen a player at any level limp like that and then come out later and seem to have another gear and look less gimpy than he had in a month. I know Toradol is pretty common in college football, but how much was that guy on?

Can Browning progress? No matter what you think of Browning, there isn’t really any arguing that he isn’t getting better. Will we ever see the junior quarterback grow into a veteran who can take the next step in taking on challenging defenses.

Can Cal come through? I wouldn’t bet on Cal beating Stanford and saving the Huskies’ chances for the North, but I think they have a better shot than most think. I think Stanford planned out their attack against the Huskies for nearly a month, especially in relation to Love’s usage, knowing that they could drop a game around that game and still win the North if they took down the Huskies and may be hobbled next week. Plus, the Bears are due for a win, Stanford’s ripe for a letdown game after a game where every player on their team played out of their heads, and Justin Wilcox surely knows this is a win that would do wonders for his first year.

Can the team stay motivated? The stakes are much lower overnight. Can the Huskies stay motivated for still striving towards a great 11-2 season, even if it means no Pac-12 championship and a possible Holiday Bowl?